"The Dyzoat is the perfect living definition of paroxysm. Once a swarm has touched an area their corruption will never fully be purged. They are a perpetual plague with no end, only seasons of respite and suffering."
The Dyzoat is a scourge upon Tairos, one that many intrepid heroes and altruistic rulers alike have tried to expunge. Yet, despite every effort, it is the Dyzoat that triumphs in each encounter without exception. Many sages and prophets over the centuries have made the same dire predictions- the Dyzoats will survive whatever final disaster breaks the rest of Tairos. They will inherit the land and the distant future will be nothing but hungry mouths and gnashing teeth set upon each other until the end of time.
No source can pinpoint the exact arrival of the Dyzoat in Tairos. The early Elves and Dwarves make no mention of the creatures in their records. However, it was roughly around the time Gnomes were discovered that Dyzoat reports started to become more and more prevalent. Many scholars looking for an easy answer have thus concluded that the Gnomes must have brought the Dyzoats with them from wherever they originally hailed. This theory falls apart under scrutiny, however, as no Dyzoats have yet been encountered in any of the regions occupied by Gnomes. In fact, because their appearance is so common in the forests near Melanthris and Rylan it is more likely that they arrived through the gates nearest the elves or from the Bitter Depths.
What is known for certain is that the Dyzoat is not from this world. Surviving records from the old Gnome Empire of Carta talk of similar fungal threats found during their travels from world to world. Fae also speak of mushroom-like monsters found on the worlds they've harvested and many of their stories match the behaviors of the Dyzoat. Even the Tengu found similar creatures on other continents and islands during their travels prior to landing on Tairos.
If these numerous accounts are to be believed, one must accept one of two theories: either parasitic fungal creatures are common in the evolution of life-bearing worlds; or, a single fungal species has managed to infect and adapt itself to countless host worlds. The implications of either theory being proven true are far-reaching and dire.
On the Nature of Dyzoat Reproduction
It is not the martial danger represented by any individual Dyzoat that illicits such terror in local citizenry, but the prospect of becoming a host. While the biological mechanism that Dyzoats use to accomplish reproduction is rather common in some species (particularly insects and simple fungal blooms) it is the efficiency, vitality and... dynamic nature of the reproduction process that most fear so deeply.
The process begins with the penetration of the ovipositor into the living victim. The ovipositor is flute-like in shape and ends in a particularly sharp point. This is often used as a slashing and piercing weapon in combat. Many Dyzoat hunters note the spasmatic nature of the whipping tail and its weapon. This is because of a secondary control structure known as a craniosacral brain. A similar organ is believed to exist in a number of other living species as well. This organ is responsible for an algorithmic-like set of actions the tail must take based on information shared with it by the Dyzoat's other senses and primary brain (located between the ocular organs and behind the mouth). This frees up the Dyzoat's primary brain for activities like managing flight patterns, searching for prey and looking for ideal regions to release spores.
Rarely has a tail strike in combat resulted in Dyzoat spores taking root and thriving. The immune system of living creatures is particularly adept at repelling fungal infection and Dyzoat spore is no exception. This is why the ocular organs of the Dyzoat are so vital to the process of reproduction. The hypnotic patterns and bursts of light that flicker within these organs have two insidious effects. The first is to reduce resistant hosts to little more that stupified puppets who are happy enough to stand completely still and defenseless. The secondary effect is to send the mind and immune system into a state of hyperacute stress. For the victim, this means that even after they wake from the mind-altering effect, they'll be overwhelmed by waves of anxiety, tension, nightmares, and similar stressors. Such stressors are known to deeply weaken the immune system of most living creatures thus making them more susceptible to infection.
After a victim is transfixed in place, the Dyzoats will be able to effortlessly hover behind the victim while the craniosacral brain urges the tail ovipositor into the base of the spinal column where a rush of spores is injected between spinal disks. This site is likely chosen for implantation because as the Dyzoat spores grow the victim will be increasingly debilitated by pain without harming its overall life functions. The spores work to perpetuate the hyperacute stressor effects. Thus, after implantation and until death, victims are in a constant state of restless fear, agitation and forced irrational behaviors.
In the final stages of larval Dyzoat growth, small but fully functional Dyzoats will have nested in abscesses along the spine. They will nurture themselves on spinal fluid and surrounding flesh as well as venture to nearby abscesses to eat their kin. What may have started as dozens of small larval Dyzoats will eventually end in one to three fully grown specimens devouring the final, tattered remains of the host.
Dyzoat Evolution and Assimilation
While fear of Dyzoat reproduction is paramount to the average citizen, scholars are most concerned with the unique nature of their adaptation techniques. The Dyzoat is a collection of specialized fungal organisms all working in tandem to perpetuate themselves and the species. Some of these spores have the rather novel function of processing the spinal fluids collected during their larval stage, breaking them down and incorporating them into the bioform as a whole.
This process is slow and generally unfolds over the course of generations of Dyzoats, but the eventual effect is the same: useful traits from host species are assimilated into the Dyzoat swarm. Dyzoat swarms that feed primarily on dwarven communities will often develop sturdier bodies and keen dark vision. Swarms that feed on elf communities for considerable amounts of time are often more lithe, with greater agility in flight, and sharper vision. There are accounts that Dyzoats subsisting on Fae communities have resulted in stronger hypnotic abilities.
The end goal of Dyzoat evolution is unknown, but a great deal of conjecture among academic circles comes from a single entry in a surviving gnomish explorer's text from the time before they arrived in Tairos.
It took centuries for the territory of the northern Dyzoat swarm to expand far enough to the hills that it would finally overlap with the one nearest to our outpost. But, last week it finally happened. We watched the blue-black Dyzoats from the north descend into the charcoal colored ones from the hills. For days leading up to it, they were both taking to the air, ignoring travelers on the road and causing all kinds of noisy raucous. When they finally met it was like nothing I could have imagined. Pure violence, Dyzoats feeding on Dyzoats. Dropping out of the air dead by the thousands. Both swarms looked like they were decimated to the point of no recovery. We thought that was end of it. We even started talking about ways to lure Dyzoats into each others territory as a means of cleaning the pests out. Then we started to see new Dyzoat infected travelers coming in. Only a few at first but the numbers grew and grew real quickly. The larval they were infected with looked to incorporate the worst parts of the northern flock and the hill Dyzoats. I think the strongest Dyzoats from two flocks ate up enough of each other and their guts took everything the other swarm learned and fed it into their spore sacs. No one's seen a northern Dyzoat or a hill Dyzoat since but now we're overwhelmed with this new kind. We're packing up and leaving now to meet up with the rest of the caravan. I'll keep this up to date with any new developments as we observe them.
No limbs, two large wings, wide mouth with toxic spine-teeth, a long and flexible tail ending in an ovipositor, ocular organs filled with bio-luminescent pigments and enzymes, ventral spiracles that are vital to the Dyzoates respiration and release of fungal plumes.
Biological traits can vary depending on the feeding habits of an individual Dyzoate infestation. Consistent traits are the morphology- wings, mouth, ocular organs, ovipositor. Everything else can vary based on diet.
Dyzoats born from decomposing matter rather than ovipositor implantation in living flesh tend to be more biologically locked. They rarely display any of the traits found in the rest of their flock. However, once they manage to implant spores into a living target the Dyzoats born from that attack will display the traits that were repressed in their parents' generation.
Genetics and Reproduction
Dyzoats contain a number of different fungal organisms. One such organism lives in a tube-like organ within the tail and connects to the ovipositor. These spores, when injected into living flesh, begin to bloom into new Dyzoats. These larval Dyzoats eat the host as well as each other, ensuring that only the strongest few survive to maturity. Dyzoats are constantly emitting spore trails from their ventral spiracles that contain a mixture of different fungal life. This includes spores capable of infecting decomposing matter which can also result in the birth of Dyzoats. Dyzoats born from decomposing matter are generally smaller, weaker versions that die after using their ovipositor. Their only purpose in the lifecycle is to create stronger living-flesh born Dyzoats.
Growth Rate & Stages
Dyzoats born from decomposing matter grow slower and are often victim to local herbivores. It can take upwards of two weeks for such a Dyzoat to reach maturity.
Dyzoats born from living flesh will often spend a week ravenously devouring their host and each other. After that week only a handful of mature Dyzoats will have survived to maturity. They will then leave the remains of their host and follow any trace of other Dyzoats (Ocular organ bioluminescence, spore trails) and join with the growing flock.
Dyzoats killed by natural or unnatural means will release all of their spore blooms within days of death. A single dead Dyzoat is often able to irrevocably taint an area of up to twenty feet in diameter. Unless burned quickly this can often lead to furthering the Dyzoat infestation in an area.
Ecology and Habitats
Forested regions are the most common area for Dyzoat infestations to occur. The decomposing organic matter on the forest floor is often very susceptible to fungal growth including Dyzoat spores.
Dietary Needs and Habits
The diet of Dyzoats consists mainly of prey animals in the region they infest. Early stages of a Dyzoat infestation target small, simple animals. Only once the infestation has grown large enough does it begin pursuing larger and more dangerous prey items.
The reason for this constant upgrading in the difficultly prey items chosen by Dyzoats is because the traits the infestation can inherit. For example; studies have shown that infestations that have preyed upon elves for several Dyzoat generations begin exhibiting more lithe and dexterous forms. Orc populations yield hardier Dyzoats with stronger jaws. Dyzoats that have taken root along rivers and lakes often develop traits beneficial for aquatic environments.
To date, these traits have always been simple ones but some theories shared among academics circles postulate that Dyzoat evolution is capable of assimilating more complex traits as well. Spell-like abilities, enhanced attributes, possibly even intelligence are all part of this nightmare thesis.
Dyzoats are not a very long-lived species. They tend to die off during the winter months and dry seasons. Fully mature specimens will sense the coming seasonal changes and slither away into the dead vegetation around lakes or into the root systems of strong trees and die. The spores within them will sprout into fungal columns infecting the water or roots nearby with the hope of continuing the species when the weather becomes more favorable.
However, Dyzoats kept in captivity and an in ideal conditions do not seem to degrade with the passing of time. In fact, the spore colonies inside the specimen seem to continuously evolve, change and react to their environment. Anecdotal evidence exists of single Dyzoats that have existed for decades or perhaps even centuries. They become larger and more sedentary, eventually rooting in place, while the newer and stronger spore-born organisms they've developed terrorize the local ecology.
There have been no known cases of successful or even attempted domestication.
Uses, Products & Exploitation
Dyzoat flesh decomposes very quickly and the taste has been described as like wet dough made with sour milk. The outer body is brittle and crunchy after death. They make an undesirable food source for any civilized cuisine. Only scavenger animals would consider them for a quick meal.
The only part of their body that has any use are their occular organs. The fluids inside can be distilled down with other ingredients to made elixirs capable of transfixing and hypnotizing victims. However, the fluids inside have a consistency like clotted cream and spoil very quickly after death. They are also notoriously difficult to harvest. The membrane that contains the fluid becomes very thin and easily ruptured after the creature's demise.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Woods near Melanthris and the jungles of The Serpent Lands are most common. Dyzoats are often found in the stable climates of underground caverns if enough food/hosts can be located nearby. They have also been found in the sewer systems of some major cities as well.
Dyzoats have little intelligence to speak of and very little in the way of survival instinct. Dyzoats are prone to often suicidal attacks to satiate their near-endless hunger. Their every drive is focused on infesting living hosts and eating. Nothing else matters to them. This drive serves the Dyzoat species well because it results in either an infected host or a dead Dyzoat, both of which have a good chance of furthering the species and growing the size of the flock.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
Nearly 360 degree vision due to ocular organ placement, olfactory glands allow for tracking and navigation by scent detection.
Symbiotic and Parasitic organisms
Dyzoats are a deeply parasitic species that offer no benefit to any environment they invade. The spore colonies that live within their bodies share a symbiotic relationship with the Dyzoat itself though many would consider the Dyzoat to be a dozen or more separate lifeforms all working in unison.
Ageless under the right conditions though wild Dyzoats tend only to live a few seasons at most
Wing tip to wing tip averages about 6 feet. Ovipositor to mouth is about 5 feet on average.
Body Tint, Colouring and Marking
Most Dyzoats tend toward darker, bumpy and slick flesh very much the texture of an oily walnut. The wing membrane is usually vibrant shades of red, orange and yellow. The ocular organs are a constant pulse of different colors.
Fantastic article - lots of details! I would be petrified to encounter one of these in the wild!
Gauntlet - my shiniest article this year!
Me too! Thanks for taking a look at them!